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Borderlands: US challenging Mexico’s import ban on corn

In Mexico, supporters of the ban on genetically modified corn contend there are unintended side effects from its production that negatively affect human health. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: US challenging Mexico’s import ban on corn; Sprint Transport set to build new headquarters in Texas; FleetPride acquires Sam & Sons Truck Equipment; and Laredo border officers seize narcotics worth $11.5M. 

US challenging Mexico’s import ban on corn

Farmers and policymakers in the United States are urging the Mexican government to reconsider an impending ban on imports of genetically modified corn by 2024.

Mexico’s plan to prohibit the importation of the crop began in 2020, when Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador decreed he would eliminate the use of the herbicide glyphosate and genetically modified corn in the country.

“If Mexico’s decrees on corn are fully implemented, or even partially implemented by the Dec. 31, 2024 deadline, then that’s really bad for a lot of U.S. exports, and it’s bad for the Mexican population,” Angus R. Kelly, director of public policy, trade and biotechnology at the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), told FreightWaves. “There’s no doubt prices will increase on livestock feed and tortillas in the country, because a lot of the corn we send them is used in feedstock and corn is also used to make tortillas.”

For years, Mexican environmental and consumer groups have been fighting against the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), fearing the unintended side effects from changes in the genomes of grains used to make bread, pasta and other foods, according to La Jornada and other Mexican media.

Mexican supporters of the ban also contend that seeds from genetically modified corn could contaminate Mexico’s age-old native varieties of white corn, which many in the country consider a part of Mexican history and heritage. Some historians believe the people who lived in central Mexico were the first to develop white corn as far back as 9,000 years ago.

Mexico has been one of the main buyers of corn produced in the U.S. for decades. Mexico imported $4.7 billion worth of corn in 2021, behind China, which imported $5.06 billion. 

More than 90% of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). GMOs were introduced in the 1990s to resist insect pests and tolerate herbicides. Many GMOs are modified to be more pest-resistant, in order to reduce pesticide use. Other common goals are weather or moisture level tolerance to allow farming in less hospitable areas.

The majority of U.S. corn is produced in states such as Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois, and is shipped by rail, truck and barge, according to the USDA. The bulk of U.S. corn exports to Mexico are shipped either from the Port of New Orleans via container ship, or by truck from the port of entry in Laredo, Texas.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that he is continuing to speak with officials in Mexico about the plan to ban genetically modified corn, hoping to find a resolution before 2024, according to Reuters

NCGA, which is based in Washington and represents the interests of farmers across the country, wants U.S. officials to launch a dispute settlement proceeding under the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade pact if a resolution can’t be reached soon.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is the only organization that can request a dispute settlement panel under the USMCA to challenge Mexico’s upcoming ban on corn imports.

“We are asking very clearly for them to bring a dispute settlement and we’re convinced they would win,” Kelly said. “The USTR and USDA say they’re trying to find a resolution, short of filing a USMCA dispute settlement. But we’ve been chasing our tails and the situation doesn’t seem to be improving.”

Sprint Transport set to build new headquarters in Texas

Bulk liquid hauler Sprint Transport recently announced it will build a new headquarters in La Porte, Texas, according to Bulk Transporter.

The 22-acre facility will include 19,000 square feet of office space and 30,000 square feet for an eight-bay maintenance shop, ISO tank container depot and tank-cleaning facility. La Porte is about 22 miles east of Houston.

Sprint Transport, founded in 2010, provides bulk liquid shipping services along the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Coast. The company employs 131 drivers and has 156 trucks, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. 

Sprint’s current headquarters/terminal is in Pasadena, Texas. The carrier also has terminals in Freeport and Nederland, Texas.  

FleetPride acquires Sam & Sons Truck Equipment

FleetPride Inc., one of the nation’s largest distributors of aftermarket truck and trailer parts, has acquired the assets of Houston-based Sam & Sons Truck Equipment.

Sam & Sons is a family-owned business founded in 1968. The acquisition includes a 26,000-square-foot facility that provides specialized services in liftgate repair, along with an onsite 100-foot paint booth capable of servicing a 54-foot tractor-trailer. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

FleetPride, which is based in Irving, Texas, has more than 300 locations across the U.S., including 75 service centers and five distribution centers. 

Laredo border officers seize narcotics worth $11.5M

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the port of entry in Laredo, Texas, recently intercepted two shipments of illegal drugs on the same day at the World Trade Bridge, according to a news release.

On Sept. 20, CBP officers were inspecting a tractor-trailer arriving from Mexico carrying a shipment of brooms. Officers discovered 32 packages containing about 81 pounds of alleged cocaine in the trailer. The narcotics had an estimated street value of $1.1 million.

Later the same day, CBP officers searched a truck carrying a shipment of Sheetrock from Mexico. Officers found 71 packages containing about 31 pounds of alleged heroin and 2,551 packages containing roughly 1,050 pounds of alleged methamphetamine. The narcotics had an estimated street value of $10.4 million.

CBP officers turned the case over to Homeland Security Investigations.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]